Saturday, April 12, 2014

Green Machine, Part II

I guess I failed to mention in the last post what bike I was riding: A Canfield Yelli Screamy. The frame features 16.7" chainstays, a 24.5" top tube and a 68 degree head angle with my 120mm fork. As you can see, in order to get the chainstays that short, the seat tube is attached well ahead of the bottom bracket.

Yesterday I took it out for a shakedown ride. I chose the Lake Natoma-Granite Bay loop because it isn't a super technical ride. I didn't want to do anything too crazy on an unfamiliar bike that is such a radical departure from any bike I have owned before.

After getting my saddle height perfected in the parking lot, I jumped onto the trail. Right off the bat I felt comfortable on this bike. As a longtime cross-country guy, the bar position is higher than I am used to, but it felt very natural and balanced. On the mostly smooth, wide and straight Natoma trail, the bike handled very neutrally, if not a bit slowly.

On the gravel access road between Beal's and Granite Bay, the front tire lost traction in a couple fast downhill corners. I was having trouble adjusting to the slack head angle, and it was a bit unnerving.

Eventually I made my way up to the singletrack and everything changed. The bike that felt a little slow earlier suddenly came to life in tighter terrain. The short chainstays, long top tube (with a short stem) and slack head angle all combined to make a really sweet handling bike. Instead of rounding through turns, this bike begs to be taken into corners hard and fast, squaring off the turn by pivoting on the rear wheel with your hips.

The short stays really make the bike fun to ride. I found myself lofting the front wheel anytime I had the chance because it took so little effort. The chainstays are a full inch shorter than my Jamis Dragon 29er. You wouldn't think an inch would make that much difference, but wow does it.

I expected climbing on this bike to be its weakness, but it climbs quite well. When seated I can apply plenty of power even with the higher hand position. At first I thought a handlebar mounted lockout for the fork would be out of place on this bike, but I'm glad I went with it in the end. I used it a number of times for extended climbing out of the saddle, which the bike also did well. Again, the short stays allowed for great traction, yet the front end stayed down and did not wander.

When I hit the rocky area with the steeper drops, I couldn't have been more comfortable, confident and aggressive. I can say unequivocally that I have not performed as well as I did yesterday since I broke my wrist some six-plus years ago.

Component-wise, everything worked well. I went with a 1x10 drivetrain for the first time, and it was great—smooth, quiet and no chain drops. I never used the smallest or largest cogs, so I had a plenty of gear range, at least for that ride.

When SRAM came out with the XX1 group, I thought the concept was ridiculous. I had used a triple crank for almost 30 years, and I never had issues with it. You would think from reading the magazine articles that installing, maintaining and using a front derailleur was rocket science. In forums people complain of missed shifts, chain rub, chain suck and bent chainrings.

Suddenly I found myself owning a frame with really tight tolerances in the bottom bracket area. Although you CAN run a triple, it was no easy feat according to other Yelli owners. So I went ahead and took the single ring route.

The chainring is a Race Face wide-narrow, which "borrows" the SRAM technology. The narrow teeth fit between the chain rollers and the alternating wide teeth fit between the plates. This supposedly helps keep the chain put.

The other component important to the equation is a rear derailleur equipped with a clutch. This keeps the chain from bouncing around. I went with a short cage, which also helps by keeping the chain shorter (and it looks really cool).

The frame is built with a tapered head tube, which is a first for me. I guess this is a technological advancement, although I never noticed any of my straight steerers holding me back much. It forced me to buy new tools, so that added to the cost of this bike.

Anyway, after one ride I am pretty much smitten. Time will tell if it's just new bike infatuation or the beginning of a long term relationship.


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